That international abortion week continues to be a cause for protest implies that women’s reproductive rights remain undermined in much of the global sphere. Such laws remain in force in Andorra. Today, different feminist associations – on the occasion of the Global Day of Action for legal and safe abortion on September 28 – have called a demonstration to protest against the current situation in the Principality. The concentration began at 12 o’clock in the Plaza de la Rotonda congregating around 100 people despite the weather difficulties. Characterized by the presence of international support, 45 women have moved early from Barcelona to support the cause of Andorran women.
While in Spain the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is free until the 14th week of gestation, the Principality of Andorra does not allow the practice of abortion or in extreme cases such as the risk of the mother’s health, the malformation of the fetus or the pregnancy for rape.
Not a step back
This implies the continuous displacement of affected women to nearby towns. The Spain of the 80s that traveled to London to interrupt the pregnancy remains on the border with our country where, yet, the General Council has not decriminalized this practice. Those who have the necessary financial resources can pay for the medical expenses of clinics in Catalonia and France. Those with more precarious situations are, in many cases, forced to be mothers. Anna Ribas is a 25-year-old Andorran young woman who has attended the demonstration: “Not being able to have an abortion leads us to be mothers without wanting to or even to resort to clandestine measures that are unsafe for our health if we cannot go to Barcelona for different reasons ”.
According to the testimonies collected from the associations involved, some of the women do not consider having an abortion despite the difficulties it may cause due to social pressure: “Andorra has a very closed mentality, I always say that we are in 1960,” says Ribas.
For those who would like to opt for the interruption of pregnancy but lack resources, the feminist associations themselves resort to funds from common donations to pay for travel, stays and medical procedures. But, what is the profile of the women who have the possibility – and the interest – of moving to Barcelona? The coordinator of the Association of Sexuals and Reproduction of Catalonia and member of the campaign for the right to abortion, Sílvia Aldavert, explains that “the women who manage to reach our support network know, in part, their rights. But they continue to feel that they are doing something wrong because being underground encourages blaming and stigma. It is a process that they have to pay for themselves, financially and emotionally and, in addition, the role of precarious confidentiality comes into play. ”
In 2018, this newspaper published that, based on data from the Generalitat’s Health Department, 124 Andorran women had abortions in the Catalan public health system. According the figures of the newspaper ‘Público’ collected by Paula Ericsson, a total of 21,936 women aborted in Catalonia in 2019 and 97.8% of instrumental abortions were performed in private centers. The total data of Andorran women who had to move to the contiguous region would even amount to double, taking into account that those who go to these private clinics do not fall within the registry of the Ministry. Aldavert declares that “we have created this support network for all those women who travel to Barcelona. Now we are demonstrating and what we are doing jointly among the feminist movements is assuming a brutal transformation in Andorra. These are hard times for the companions who put the bodies and their lives, but there is no turning back. The change is here ”.
The uninterrupted purple tide that was consolidated in March 2018, flooding the streets of Spanish cities, caused general consequences in collective thinking. ‘Not one step back’ lit the flame of what is called the fourth feminist wave -which began to take shape around 2010- and the Principality of Andorra echoed these mobilizations. Estefanía Liendo, Argentine feminist activist and member of the Green Tide in Barcelona, recalls that “in 2018 there were only 20 women in the demonstrations in Andorra. Today we are many more, we are doing an exercise of conscience. ” Around ten women of this have attended the appointment today with green robes and masks according to the aesthetics of the fight in favor of abortion in Argentina.
The Catholic legacy
In Andorra, a multi-party representative democratic government system remains in force, led since 2019 by Xavier Espot Zamora of Democrats for Andorra (DA). The Principality, of 78,000 inhabitants in 2020, recognizes two Heads of State as co-princes: Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic; and Joan-Enric Vives, the Bishop of the Seo de Urgel. “All the rights that there are in many other countries here do not exist. Recently ‘gay unions’ were approved, not even called marriage. Everything is hidden a lot, it is very difficult to take steps forward. I feel that the moment to legalize abortion will never come with the Head of State that we have and with the Vatican behind it ”, confesses Ribas.
Liendo declares that “we know that the church has political power everywhere, but for a Bishop to be the Head of State is an institutionally violent act. It seems when these things happen in Europe, we all play ‘jerks’ ”.
The controversy surrounding abortion, dragged by decades of confrontations, became more acute when, in 2005, the Andorran Social Democratic Party (PS) proposed to decriminalize the practice in cases of rape, life-threatening risk of the pregnant woman or fetal deformity: the Casa del Vall at that time rejected the amendment. The approval of the Penal Code the same year officially consolidated abortion as a crime. Andorran feminist associations such as ‘Xarxa La Meri’ or ‘Associació Stop Violéncies’ continue their activity and Vanessa Mendoza, a feminist activist, was sentenced to prison for condemning the absence of rights before a UN Committee in 2019. The Andorran government filed charges defamation against Mendoza and tells us that she is still “sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros, but I’m fine. It is the oppressor who should be ashamed of what he is doing. ”
While Andorra is positioned as one of the winter tourist destinations par excellence, there are many who are unaware that abortion is illegal in the country. “The interests of the country in terms of the Head of State being a bishop are put before the real demand of society”, defends Ribas, insisting that “every year the number of women increases in the demonstrations of 8M and 25N but abortion continues to be very controversial ”. For his part, Mendoza insists that Andorran women “are afraid” and that “it is us, who do not have it, who should go out into the streets.”